WSJ Editorial: Summiting With Raul

Friday, April 10, 2015
From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Summiting With Raúl

President Obama courts the Cuban, who is playing hard to get.

President Obama arrived in Panama on Thursday for the 7th Summit of the Americas, where he will share the limelight and probably some public interaction with Raúl Castro. Mark it down as another legacy moment for the U.S. President, whose predecessors since 1959 have refused to legitimize the Cuban regime. So many dictators, so little time left before Jan. 20, 2017.

The meet-and-greet continues Mr. Obama’s attempt to reconcile with Cuba’s Communist regime, though the Castros are proving to be hard negotiators—like, you know, the Iranians. Mr. Obama has offered an economic lifeline and the promise of diplomatic recognition, while asking nothing in return. Raúl has responded by raising his demands.

Fidel’s little brother now says he won’t move on normalization until Mr. Obama hands over Guantanamo and takes Cuba off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Mr. Obama is waiting for a review of a State Department analysis on the terror list, but he’s sounding increasingly impatient. We look forward to hearing how Mr. Obama handles Cuba’s harboring of Basque and Colombian terrorists, plus the odd U.S. fugitive.

Since Mr. Obama agreed to a prisoner swap and a path to normal relations in December, arbitrary political detentions in Cuba have increased. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami documented 178 political detentions in January, 492 in February and 610 in March.

Cuban repression is also a road show these days, with Raúl’s enforcers this week assaulting Cubans and Cuban-Americans in Panama who had traveled to the summit for a civil society forum. The State Department condemned the violence, though it managed to avoid mentioning Cuba in its statement. You wouldn’t want a diplomatic incident.

Cuba’s South American bestie, Venezuela, will also make a splash at the summit by denouncing America’s minor sanctions. President Nicolás Maduro’s political prisoners back home include the mayor of Caracas, the former mayor of San Cristóbal, and former presidential candidate Leopoldo López.

In better news, 21 former Latin American presidents, including Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe, Chile’s Sebastián Piñera, El Salvador’s Alfredo Cristiani and Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox from Mexico, as well as former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, have signed a declaration calling for the immediate release of Mr. Maduro’s prisoners and asking the summiteers to support Venezuelan democracy.

These leaders hail from a day when the summit’s goal was promoting freedom and faster growth in the Western Hemisphere. These days it’s all about the dance of Raúl and Barack.